The Thinker’s Guide to the 21st Century

At a time of epoch-altering political upheaval, thinkers at the University of Sydney help you navigate the present. Join us as we look at key concepts tossed around in the contemporary political debate and news.

The Thinker's Guide to the 21st century brings together key thinkers from the disciplines of History, Politics, Economics, and Philosophy in conversation. Join them as they pin down the words and ideas which are changing the horizon of our future.

Series Chair: Professor Glenda Sluga, ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor of International History, FAHA.


2017 series podcasts:



2017 Program

Wednesday 2 August - New International Orders

It has been a tough year for foreign policy experts, and actors. The Australian government is only one among many scrambling to reorient national foreign policy around the uncertainties of a new international order. What has changed? What is at stake?

This panel launches the new series on the Thinkers Guide to the 21st Century, by parsing the complexities of the present international situation, from the status of the UN to the idea of alliances, and the threats of war. Together with experts in law, security, and international relations, we will consider, where do we go from here?


  • Professor James Der Derian, Centre for International Security Studies, the University of Sydney
  • Professor Christian Reus-Smit, Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland
  • Professor Anne Orford, Laureate Program in International Law at the University of Melbourne
  • Professor Glenda Sluga, Professor of International History, the University of Sydney

Wednesday 23 August – Feminism in the Age of Populism

It’s the 21st century, 100 years since Australian women were lucky enough to get the vote, and we’ve arrived at the age of Pussyriot and Pussyhats. How did women get here? What does this augur for the future of feminism as a world-wide phenomenon, now drawing a new generation of activists, in some cases connecting them with earlier feminist waves?

What is the impact of events in the US in particular for a standard of feminist politics everywhere? In an age when all social movements have a global scope, a panel of feminist academics with specific areas of geopolitical expertise on the US, UK, Russia, and Australia, come together to discuss these questions.


  • Dr Philippa Hetherington, Lecturer in Modern Eurasian History, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London (UCL)
  • Associate Professor Laura J Shepherd, School of Social Sciences, UNSW Sydney
  • Anna Hush, University of Sydney student

Wednesday 11 October – Authoritarianism

Historians these days probably get less sleep than anyone else – kept up by the echoes of the past in the radically shifting world political landscape. The historical allusions of contemporary governments in the US, and in Europe, are driving all manner of comparisons with the 1930s in particular, and the rise of Nazism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism.

This panel brings together four University of Sydney academics who specialise in the political cultures of the last century, to discuss the relevance of the past, and these categories to the present. We consider Greece, Egypt, Europe and the US. If we can work out how different the present is from the past, hopefully we can all get some sleep!


  • Professor Vrasidas Karalis, Sir Nicholas Laurantus Professor of Modern Greek, the University of Sydney
  • Professor Dirk Moses, Professor of Modern History, the University of Sydney
  • Dr Lucia Sorbera, Senior Lecturer, Department of Arabic Language and Cultures, the University of Sydney

Wednesday 25 October - Globalisation

There is no word with more purchase in present political discourse than Globalisation. But what does it mean, and why is it so important?

This panel surveys the extent of today’s globalisation, and asks: How globalised is the world really? What is the significance of this idea for politics? Is globalisation good for us? Does the European Union represent the past or a future, a world increasingly interconnected and interdependent, or torn apart? Have we arrived at an impasse and begun to fragment around nationalist economics and ideologies?

Join our panel of economists, political scientists and historians who study the global to consider these questions–and find some alternative views–at the last of our Thinker's Guide to the 21st Century Series event for 2017.


  • Dr Thomas Adams, Lecturer in American Studies and History, the University of Sydney
  • Professor John Romalis, Sir Hermann Black Professor in Economics, School of Economics, the University of Sydney
  • Professor Glenda Sluga, ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor of International History, FAHA, the University of Sydney